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Full text of "Men Of Mathematics"

MEN OF MATHEMATICS
We may dispose here of Hamilton's lifelong friendships with
some of the shining literary lights of his day - the poets Words-
worth, Southey, and Coleridge, of the so-called Lake School,
Aubrey de Yere, and the didactic novelist Maria Edgeworth, a
litteratrice after Hamilton's own pious heart. Wordsworth and
Hamilton first met on the latter" s trip of September 1827 to the
English Lake District. Having 'waited on Words worth at tea\
Hamilton oscillated back and forth with the poet all night, each
desperately trying to see the other home. The following day
Hamilton sent Wordsworth a poem of ninety iron lines which
the poet himself might have warbled in one of his heavier
flights. Naturally Wordsworth did not relish the eager young
mathematician's unconscious plagiarism, and after damning it
with faint praise, proceeded to tell the hopeful author - at great
length - that "the workmanship (what else could be expected
from so young a writer?) is not what it ought to be.' Two years
later, when Hamilton was already installed as astronomer at
the Duns ink Observatory, Wordsworth returned the visit.
Hamilton's sister Eliza, on being introduced to the poet, felt
hers ell1 "involuntarily parodying the first lines of his own poern
Yarrow Visited:
And this is Wordsworth 1 this the man
Ofich^m my fancy cherished
So faithfully a leaking dream,
An image that hath perished!
One great benefit accrued from Wordsworth's visit: Hamilton
realized at last that 'his path must be the path of Science, and
not that of Poetry; that he must renounce the hope of habi-
tually cultivating both, and that, therefore, he must brace him-
self up to bid a painful farewell to Poetry'. In short, Hamilton
j:Tahped the obvious truth that there was not a spark of poetry
in Mm, hi the literary sense. Nevertheless he continued to ver-
sify aU his life. Wordsworth's opinion of Hamilton's intellect
was high. In fact he graciously said (in e^ect) that only two
men he had ever known gave him a feeling of inferiority,
Coleridge and Hamilton.
Hamilton did not meet Coleridge till 1832, when the poet had
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